GPs can from today bid for a slice of a new £100-million cash pot provided by the government to explore new ways of improving and extending access to GP services.

The second wave of The Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund is inviting applications from practices serving a minimum of 30,000 patients, to help accelerate the spread of longer opening hours and new means of accessing services throughout England.

“Even more patients across the country will now be able to see their family doctor in the most convenient way for them and at a more convenient time. People who struggle to find a GP appointment to fit in with family and work life can now make the most of new technologies,” noted NHS England’s Deputy Medical Director Mike Bewick.

The first wave, launched in April, saw 20 pilot practices given a combined £50 million to test 8am-8pm opening hours and various “forward-thinking services to suit modern lifestyles", such as Skype, email and phone consultations, telecare and health apps.

Positive impact

According to Bewick, the pilots have already had a positive impact on patients, with four million having benefitted by the end of October. 

“Our vision for primary care is to see GPs and primary care colleagues play an even stronger role in the heart of local communities, offering more joined up, high quality services and keeping people out of hospital”, he said.

Prime Minister David Cameron announced last month that a total of £400 million would be spent over the next give years to guarantee better access to GPs including a seven-day service. 

But while welcoming the investment, the Royal College of General Practitioners, said aside from the fact that 8,000 new GPs would be needed by 2020 just to cover the services on offer now, there is not enough evidence showing that this is the route patients want to go down.